Friday, August 21, 2009

Science and Terrorism

We use science and technology for the management and improvement of our lives – yet it appears that our increasing technical sophistication also enables small groups and individuals to cause great harm.
In 1605, plotters failed in their attempt to kill James I of England and most of the artistocracy by blowing up the Houses of Parliament with gunpowder. 1754 saw traders in Pennsylvania create a smallpox epidemic in the local Native Indian population by giving them blankets exposed to the virus. In 1992, the city of London was bombed three times. 1995 was the year in which the Aum Shinrikyo cult attacked the Tokyo subway with Sarin gas and in the USA a government building in Oklahoma City was destroyed with an explosive composed of 2300 kg of easily obtainable fertilizer and nitromethane. Most infamously, in 2001, 19 terrorists armed with box-cutting knives hijacked four commercial aircraft in the USA and used the planes as flying bombs to destroy the World Trade Center and attack the Pentagon.

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